The country’s live music scene has been closed since March, with the summer festival season all but cancelled thanks to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Some musicians have taken things online to fill the void, but as the UK begins to lift its lockdown measures, many music fans are itching to once again experience a real-life gig. A recent survey suggested that almost a third of festival-goers would happily return to a music event as soon as the restrictions were removed.
As yet, the Government has given little specific detail, with no concrete dates for when music venues and clubs might be allowed to reopen.
On May 11, the Home Office released a 60-page document titled Our Plan To Rebuild, which plotted a three-step plan for lifting the UK lockdown. It included details of when pubs, restaurants and cinemas might be able to reopen, with July mooted as the earliest possible month.
However, the report goes on to state that “some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely in part”.
Later on, nightclubs are referenced specifically. The report explains that “while reopening outdoor spaces and activities (subject to continued social distancing) comes earlier in the roadmap because the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly lower,” reopening venues whose “core purpose is social interaction (such as nightclubs)... may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in the numbers of infections.”
From that information, it looks as if festivals — or open-air gigs — will be among the first to reappear, and that all music events will be subject to social distancing measures. How exactly that will play out remains to be seen, although it almost certainly means reduced capacities and space between attendees.
The general secretary of the Musicians' Union, Horace Trubridge, paints a dire picture of the current state of affairs. Speaking to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on June 9 about the impact of Covid-19 on the music industry, Trubridge said: "All the work – live work, studio work, orchestras, everything – just fell off a cliff, it all disappeared.
“Our members have had no income whatsoever from work since the middle of March and it’s had a devastating effect on the profession.
“Our wonderful industry is so dependent upon audiences and we can’t see a point…when we will be able to put an audience in a venue to see a live performance for quite some time."
However, in an interview with the Evening Standard on June 8, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden revealed for the first time that a cash rescue package for the arts was in the works.
Elsewhere in Europe, some countries are taking tentative steps towards normality.
In Spain, one of the worst-hit nations on the continent, the government has devised a phased approach. Different parts of the country will be allowed to reopen venues and gradually increase capacity depending on whether regional health targets are met. First, indoor clubs will be able to host 50 people and outdoor venues will operate with a capacity of 400, later increasing to 80 and 800 respectively. However, capacity will always be restricted to one-third of the venue’s total, and all attendees must be seated and 2m apart.
Italy is doing something similar, with indoor concert halls allowed to welcome up to 200 people from June 5, provided they are seated and socially distanced.
Other countries are being more cautious — Germany has placed a ban on nightclubs until July 31 at least, while gatherings of more than 5,000 people are off the cards until October 24.
And in South Korea, nightclubs were reopened in late April, only to be shut down two weeks later after the move was linked to a spike in new infections.
While uncertainty reigns for now, there are surely perilous times ahead for the country’s music venues. Fans can play their part in helping them survive.
For one, if you have tickets for a gig in the coming weeks and months, hold onto it rather than requesting a refund — if you are in a position to do so financially. This will help the venues keep money in the bank, and when the gig is eventually scheduled, your ticket will still be valid.
Scores of venues are also taking donations. We’ve rounded up the London venues currently crowdfunding in this guide. If your favourite venue is outside of London, then check its websites and social media pages, as it might be running an online fundraising campaign.